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Stories by Mike Humfreville

Thatch    ( Posted December 1, 2005 )

At our house in Bahia de Los Angeles we recently removed a second-story balcony cover of plastic. We replaced it with palm fronds. After the work was done we left for LA to return to Bahia a month later. We found we were the friendly laughing stock of the bay. We had built the thatched balcony cover next to our fireplace chimney. Not just that but it was opposed to the prevailing winds from the north. How stupid could I have been?

The old balcony cover was a plastic latticework. It threw little shade. Our house faces east and the early morning sun heats things up quickly and brightens tiles and walls to the point of waking us up too early. I wanted the palm fronds to close the gaps in the lattice and to droop over the east-facing balcony and prevent the early morning sun for creeping across our living area. It's a small change, but meaningful.

Now in the mornings and afternoons and whenever the winds rise a bit I can listen to the rustlings of the individual spears of the fronds as they brush each other. It's a small noise and if anything else is going on, television, music, or whatever, I lose it. And when the sun works to invade our space the shadows of the tips of thatch bounce in the breeze against the tiles and walls. It's very tranquil. I'd be totally unaware of this in LA.

The crows seem to like the thatch. They land and torment our dog Dito because they know he cannot reach them there, a foot out of his range. They are smarter than he is as he keeps trying to get them and can't. The crows caw at him just to provoke him. Maybe that's why I don't like crows. I don't like crows but my friend tells me they are intelligent. They must have evolved for some purpose?

So I'm thinking we will keep the thatch and just not use the fireplace. Maybe put a spark arrestor atop the chimney? Most likely I'll just buy a small propane space heater for the few times we'll need it. I'm not a layered-clothing person but I can learn. And we can add another comforter to the bed in winter; it's not like it's going to snow. It is Baja.

If we can live with it I'd prefer to have the natural aesthetics.

Of thatch.

(Author's note: This story was provoked by George Bergin, Jorge de La Ribera, who sent me a short note on the natural surroundings where he lives. I hope he posts it for us all).

Copyright 2003-2006 Mike Humfreville

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